What are the four key elements for successfully Working from Home?

These four key elements can offer significant productivity improvements and cost saving for organisations that embrace Working from Home. Benefits include significantly reduced office costs, energy saving due to less travel, productivity increases, better time management and well being.

1 Messaging

An essential part of any team working from home is to be able to communicate in near real time.

An advantage of instant messaging is instead of interrupting someone on site, or waiting for them to become available, it's possible to instantly post a message, either to an individual or a group, and for that message to be acted on at the first available moment. It's possible to actively notify individuals and interrupt their activity as in real life, but as this can be disruptive to productivity it's usually best avoided.

Usenet was the original distributed discussion system established in 1980, a year before the introduction of the IBM PC in 1981. In August 1988 IRC "Internet Relay Chat" was created to replace bulletin boards and  by Jarkko Oikarinen and in so doing created a path to the open and secure standards we have today.

Links

Internet Relay Chat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Relay_Chat

Comparison of instant messaging protocols: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_instant_messaging_protocols

2 Face to face communication

Audio only calls are still essential, but video, being able to see each other and pick up on so many other cues, adds significant value that it's an essential aspect when communicating.

Although Alexander Graham Bell was granted his patent in 1876, and video-telephony became available to the public in the 1930s, it's the recent advances in computing that have enabled face to face communication to be so ubiquitous.

Some work better than others. Most, if not all of the major IT vendors have incorporated some form of video communications into their products and more generally have increased their usability. It's these advances in both software and hardware that make face to face communication richer in terms of body language, tone of voice and instant clarification so useful and effective.

Links

List of video telecommunication services https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_telecommunication_services_and_product_brands

3 Screen sharing

There's nothing like being there and touching things. As we largely work with computers it's much more effective to be able to instantly show what we're working on during a conversation and screen sharing enable this.

Let me show you what I mean

Virtual Network Computing: Available in 1998 and whilst originally used for remote administration, screen sharing has recently gained popularity due to the need for remote working. During a remote call it's now easy to share our screens and show what we are working on to the point where we can now collaborate more easily online than off. Previously we had to physically move to another location to see a screen even if it was in the same office.

Links

Comparison of remote desktop software https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_remote_desktop_software

Virtual Network Computing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_Network_Computing

4 Management

The pandemic of 2020-2022 has demonstrated that for some jobs, working from home is not only possible but offers significant benefits for costs, efficiency and well being. There will always be a need for offices, and hybrid working will remain useful for those who find working in an office easier. As studies from the 1980s onwards have demonstrated, there are benefits to remote working. As the tools have become significantly easier, better and more functional, it's clear that productivity through Working From Home is here to both stay and steadily increase.

Telecommuting was first coined back in 1973 by Jack Nilles and has been on the increase ever since. Hot desking was originally motivated by optimising expensive office space, WFH can be seen as just an extension of this where office spaced is reduced further and staff use their own preferred location.

It's more than trust, managers who focus on outcomes are well placed to manage WFH, it might be more challenging for those few who instead rely on observation.

A recent article from Gergely Orosz (see link below) assessed various project management approaches across industry. He identified a difference between Big Tech and everyone else is the role of Product Managers, and the lack of Project Managers or Product Owners who are dedicated to teams. It's a good read and highly recommended.

Links

Remote work https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remote_work

Gergely Orosz: How Big Tech Runs Tech Projects and the Curious Absence of Scrum https://blog.pragmaticengineer.com/project-management-at-big-tech/